14Final public discussion: THE STATE COUNCIL FOR PREVENTION OF CHILD DELINQUENCY submitted a proposal to initiate amendments in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia to the Ministry of Justice on the basis of the recommendations from the case study of child marriages.

The two years actualization and research on the issue of child marriages by the association ROMA S.O.S. was today presented in Prilep in the presence of health, social, educational local institutions, the Primary Court, the Roma community, journalists, international, national and local organizations.

Child marriages are a social phenomenon that adversely affects the lives of young individuals. The young people who believe that love is the leading force in the creation of their future, their parents who don’t want and don’t know how to deal with such behavior, and simultaneously competent institutions that are limited in their actions, uninformed timely about the cases and unsure to whom to report, all together form a circle of violations of the rights provided with international and national legislation.

We are all responsible for the appearance of child marriage and we are obliged to focus on reducing its number, which unfortunately has not yet been determined, but all institutions and associations in their work notice the consequences it leaves on the integration of children: disruption of education, early pregnancy, many children, poverty, economic dependence and domestic violence. This appearance is seriously reflected among girls, but is often observed among boys too.

About the problems it is spoken from Roma associations and with Roma communities because the problem is mostly present there and because the society for years has perceived it as a tradition, ‘letting’ the children’s rights to be violated from various aspects. At the same time the parent care silences because they are not conscious that it is a crime. They avoid speaking publicly about the problem, since they are afraid that in that manner they will harm their own children and at the same time they will end to be an object of additional stigmatization.

ROMA S.O.S. aiming to provide arguments FOR and AGAINST this phenomenon and thus enable to be spoken about this problem publicly. Mobilizing all the involved sides in the effort for children protection, prepared a case study that was promoted in October, around 5 municipalities in Macedonia. Today was held the final event of the campaign where the result and the reached effects were presented:

  • Wide consultation that covered a total of 155 people: local associations; Roma community; Primary Public Prosecution, health, social and educational institutions; Ministry of Internal Affairs, primary courts, law offices, legal practitioners and students.
  • Approved and confirmed all the conclusions and recommendations from the case study; The problem and the cases are being identically repeated in each municipality; Three key points are being defined and behind them stand all the consulted sides.
  • An open data base to document cases of child marriages, regardless of ethnicity, in all municipalities covered by the project.
  • Encouraged parents to seek protection for their children through legal mechanisms, for which the investigation – of a case of child marriage in front of the Primary Public Prosecution and the Primary Court – Bitola at the request of a parent / guardian for a person who isn’t 16 years old yet – stands as a confirmation.

The key point that was emphasized today was the change that began even before we officially initiated it, since no one remained immune to the problem and every stakeholder in the society accepted the commitment as serious need for providing humane and dignified life for all citizens, especially the young population who should stop the generation gap and direct the path to an overall progress of the state. The initiative is raised for amendments of the Criminal Code to the Ministry of Justice by the State council for prevention of child delinquency. On the 35th session held on 08.11.2016 it held a thematic debate on the issue of child marriages in the Republic of Macedonia. The object of discussion of this debate was the case study: “The grey zone” between tradition and child marriages.

The State Council in their explanation pointed out that ‘the research shows the institutions in Macedonia don’t recognize these child marriages and the legislation is not harmonized with the international standards. In this respect the State Council is of the opinion that in order to realize the best interests of the child, the Ministry of Justice as soon as possible should accede to amend the Criminal Code in accordance with the indicated recommendation: “Harmonization of existing legislation in order to explicitly ensure that the minimum legal age is 18 for a person to live in marital community and providing legal mechanisms/procedures of the competent institutions to conduct such a crime in direction that in the law is not sanctioned the situation where an adult lives in extramarital union with a person who has reached 16 years and not 18 years, with or without the consent of a parent or guardian. Therefore, it is necessary to move the upper limit from 16 to 18 years and that will allow the competent institutions to act coordinated and to take measures in cases of extramarital community and protect their rights. “

We are ready for the change, remains the Ministry of Justice to accept it and process it further to the decision makers i.e. the Parliament.

Simultaneously, the advocating of all other recommendations will last until the moment of full implementation of the legislative changes that will only upgrade the initiated change and will ensure the continuous or long-term sustainability in the protection of the children’s rights in the Republic of Macedonia.

What did the audience say?

Bertrand Desmoulins – representative of the UNICEF office in Skopje in his introduction speech said that we should work to change the laws, but also to change the mentality of the community in order not to accept too quickly such early marriages and to protect girls from such communities, since very often these marital communities are not a result of real love, but of 16 years old love, that the next day or month are reflected on their decisions so they regret that they concluded an early marriage. He pointed out that a lot of work is coming ahead, but now that there is awareness about the problem everyone needs to fight for this practice to stop.

Zurija Sait –National network against violence against women and domestic violence emphasized that there are omissions in the laws and that is why they should undergo changes. She pointed out that in the domestic legislation; the gender based violence is not defined in any law or in the bylaws. The only definition that exists is the one in the national strategy for gender equality from 2013 till 2020, which is completely assumed by the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women of 1993. Sait explained that the gender based violence is the violence that results with or is probable to result with physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life. The gender violence can include physical, but also psychological dimension, there are many forms of it and it can occur throughout the entire life cycle. The child marriages are a recognized form of gender and domestic violence by the United Nations. She spoke about the Istanbul convention that defines all the forms of violence against girls and women where all the harmful traditional practices such as child marriages and forced marriages are included. Sait emphasized that all these harmful practices are not criminalized in the domestic legislation and that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention is necessary, since it will bring changes in the laws and incriminate harmful traditional practices.

Jane Trenchevski – president of the Primary Court – Prilep pointed out that we should influence the mentality, since the normative element can be easily solved. He welcome the initiative for law changes, but only if it is functional.  Everyone should react when we are treating children’s issues, said Trenchevski. Normative regulations along with mobilization and overcoming of the own mental framework should provide success.

Irena Pepidjanova –  high school “Riste Risteski – Richko” Prilep welcomed the initiative of ROMA S.O.S. and Nesime Salioska and said that this is a striking example of breaking the societal prejudices imposed to the Roma people. She pointed out that this campaign incorporates the overall knowledge and intelligence. She said that she is representing a local high school, where all ethnicities are included. In her 20 years work and until recently only Roma pupils were abandoning the education, but the things changed and now child marriages are concluded also among Bosnians and Macedonians. She emphasized that in order the public awareness to be raised; there should be public lectures that will be starting even in the pre-school age which will refer to the significance of the educational process, because the power can be found only in the educated nation. If the problems are faced at an early age and the educational network is expanded than in the future there will be less and less such problems and examples.

Izabela Kuzmanoska – Ministry of Internal Affairs Prilep shared an experience from the previous week when her colleagues after reported charge of assault learned of an extra- marital community between a child born in 2001 and an adult born in 1972. She said that this is a practical experience, where the parent hadn’t reported anywhere neither asked for help and the community exists for already a year. The police found out completely accidently. And in conversations with them they said that love should not be punished, but in her belief here we are not speaking about love but about pedophilia. She emphasized that the sexual assault of a child is the worst offense and it is strictly penalized, because the consequences are permanent. She welcomed the initiative for law changes in the Criminal Code, but noted that we should work on raising awareness among the parents first and among the children after. For children at risk she said that they report to the Centre for Social Work in oral and written forms. Kuzmanoska added that the data base for such cases is at the CSW since all the deviant behavior is registered there because they are the most relevant institution.

Mile Bosnjakovski UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) shared his total support for the law harmonization and pointed out that these law changes will contribute to the partial overcome of the problem of child marriages that are concluded legally with the consent of the parents, but the problem will remain untouched at the segment where there are traditional unregistered marriages and there is where the work has to continue. He pointed out that the work with the community is extremely important actually of the leaders even of the political leaders in the Roma community for the overall uprooting of this problem, since we are speaking about a long term process.

Nesime Salioska – ROMA S.O.S. Prilep concluded that it is important to create the pre-conditions for a normal and humane living, so that the long awaited generational change to start. She informed that during this campaign а special focus was put to the Roma community, but that the phenomenon is a social appearance and that these kinds of problems and consequences can be noted everywhere. She emphasized that if the law changes will be introduced that will be for the sake of all the citizens, they will implemented for the Albanians, the Turks, the Bosnians, the Roma and for the Macedonians, with one and only aim, a better future for all. She noted that this was the last discussion of the campaign. Henceforth the efforts for change will be happening internally in the frames of certain Ministries, but that the decision will be taken by the MPs at the moment when there will be political conditions for it. In the meantime the message should be spread through all the available channels, so that these practices which harm everyone and especially the children will stop.

Theory and practice – what and where concretely is present the noncompliance


»Photos of the event

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQoVlvbE7Rw